Okay, all of you dog lovers, listen up! Love ‘em all ya want—shower your own dog, your neighbor’s dog, a random dog in the park—with all the kisses, hugs, and treats to your heart’s content, but when you encounter a service dog, it’s a totally different situation. For instance, you shouldn’t even blow an air kiss because they’re so cute! It might distract them from their job: caring for and protecting their masters.
Recently, I read an article about an inspirational teenage girl, Lukah Case, and her service dog, Jasper, who is a d-a-r-l-i-n-g black Lab.
Lukah is an amazing gal, who lives with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), which is very serious and can have devastating effects. And sadly, POTS is one of those rare diseases with limited treatment options.
With POTS, patients experience a rapid and, sometimes, irregular heart rate when they sit or stand. Although everyone’s experiences may be slightly different, people generally feel dizzy and light headed, flushed, nauseated, weak, and/or even have chest pains. And in Lukah’s case, she experiences seizures, too. So imagine how worried Lukah’s parents and family have been. Imagine the care that she’s needed. Imagine how sheltered she’s felt over the years. It must’ve been tough on everyone.
But now, Lukah’s life seems to have changed after getting her service dog, Jasper.
For the first time after Lukah got Jasper, she was able to take a short stroll in her neighborhood without being under the watchful eyes of her parents. With the help of Jasper, Lukah got her first taste of freedom, which must’ve been incredible!
And although she still struggles with her health issues, she has made the decision to go to college. Congratulations to you, Lukah—and three cheers for Jasper for being there to alert and protect you day-in and day-out!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve only encountered three service dogs: two dogs served their masters who were blind, while the other dog’s master had epilepsy. But it wasn’t until recently that I learned that people who encounter service dogs should follow certain protocol—to help ensure the safety of their master, or owner if you prefer.
Here are 5 important “Faux Paws” to avoid with service dogs:
- No matter how tempting or cute, don’t feed them.
- Don’t start up a conversation with the owner/master and then lean over to pet the dog.
- Don’t start up a conversation with the dog, either! Don’t use your special “doggie voice” to chat the dog up. The dog should never be distracted.
- Don’t orchestrate a hook-up between your own dog and the service dog. No touching; no butt licking; no smelling.
- Don’t engage the owner/master of the service dog with a bunch of personal questions. Everyone has a right to privacy.
Do you sleep in the same bed as a dog? Every service and support dog is different, but if you want tips on co-sleeping, check out this great resource.
Now it’s your turn. Do you have additional tips to share for encountering service dogs? Any words of wisdom for Lukah and Jasper before they leave for college? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And don’t forget to raise awareness for POTS, a type of dysautonomia during #NERVEmber month!